Lerner / Pipes

Ben Lerner Quartet

With the borders between Australia and New Zealand open again, visiting musicians are slowly returning to the CJC. One was Ben Lerner, a saxophonist who had utilised his time in lockdown to write some new music. While he played only one set, it was satisfying and complete in itself. We heard two stand-alone tunes and an extended composition in four parts titled ‘The Vocare Suite’. 

Ben Lerner

Lerner left New Zealand a while ago and his time in Sydney has seen him further mature as an artist. His sojourn there has been productive as he has performed alongside some well-known musicians such as Mike Nock and Steve Barry. It is good to see musicians of Lerner’s calibre returning, and perhaps we will keep him here long enough for some repeat gigs.

His sound is distinctive, even and beautiful, and can convey a variety of moods with his carefully controlled modulation. Perhaps this is a thing that alto players focus on more than tenor players? The approach served his compositions well, for his ability as a musician extends beyond performance. Strong compositional skills were evident that night, ‘The Vocare Suite’ especially. I have posted part four of that suite in a YouTube clip.  

Accompanying him on Wednesday was Kevin Field (piano), Mostyn Cole (bass) and Andy Keegan (drums). All are superb readers and each contributed something of themselves to the project. The sort of musicians you’d hope for in a pick-up band. The gig took place at Anthology K’Road on CJC night.

Alex Pipes Quintet

It’s the second time that I have seen Pipes perform, but the first time as a leader. A recent graduate of the UoA Jazz School and at present completing his postgraduate studies there. It is unusual to see such a polished performance in an emerging artists gig. He plays well, very well,  and he writes well also; but perhaps the most surprising thing to witness is how comfortable he looks while performing. 

Alex Pipes

A first-time leaders gig before a large discriminating Jazz audience must be daunting. If that was the case last week, Pipes didn’t show it. I have seen students perform who have an abundance of good ideas (and the ability to carry them out) but they sometimes lack the confidence to commit to them fully. I suspect that is the norm. Pipes gig was the counterfactual.

Pipes’ tunes were brimming with interesting ideas. They were melodic and engaging. Certain phrases reminded me of middle-eastern rhythms and whether intentional or not, enterprising. Today’s players absorb ideas from all over and so they should. Improvisation (like poetry) is the fine art of appropriation and above all, it is stealing from and modifying your own best ideas. And to do this and not sound derivative is laudable. Exciting to hear. 

The other ingredient, a solid and sympathetic line-up. Pianist Joe Kaptein has appeared at the CJC often and he is increasingly in demand. Like Pipes, he is relaxed and confident on stage. On one gig he will play fusion, on another, straight ahead, or he will dial it down as an accompanist. He is a player who feeds off a room’s energy and he gives back more than he receives. 

Upfront, alongside Pipes, was saxophonist Daniel McKenzie. An emerging player and a strong improviser. The flow of his ideas revealing a narrative quality. Bass player Wil Goodinson has appeared many times at the club. He has a solid reputation and he never disappoints. Lastly was drummer Rhohil Kishore. While the older drum styles are implicit,  he always reaches for a fresh modern sound. The gig took place at Anthology K’Road on CJC night 5 May 2021

JazzLocal32.com was rated as one of the 50 best Jazz Blogs in the world by Feedspot. The author is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association, poet & writer. Some of these posts appear on related sites.